Even Internet marketing is changing fast | VailDaily.com

Even Internet marketing is changing fast

BEAVER CREEK ” “Change” is the big buzzword in this year’s presidential campaign. But change is hitting the tourism marketing business fast and hard, and Philip Wolf wants businesses to keep up and thrive.

Wolf, chief executive officer of PhoCusWright, a marketing consulting company, talked to a breakfast audience at Friday’s Governor’s Tourism Conference at Beaver Creek about how destination marketing is changing.

The main way, of course, is the Internet, but even that’s changing faster than many people believe.

“We’re in the most momentous time for travel marketing since online travel first hit,” Wolf said.

Online travel sales continue to grow, but not at the pace first set. And the Web has evolved from just discount fares and rates to a place where people seek distinctive places to stay.

The way to do that, Wolf said, is through reputation.

For instance, the Residence Foch, a small hotel in Paris, was popular with guests, but it was struggling.

As TripAdvisor and similar sites with user reviews became more popular, people raved about their experiences at the Residence Foch, and the 30-room lodge went from obscurity to the sixth-ranked Paris hotel on TripAdvisor. Similar small hotels in other cities tell the same story.

“Trust is online gold dust,” Wolf said, adding that the size of a destination’s reputation is more important than its marketing budget.

How do destinations earn that trust?

Openness, for one thing.

“If any of your strategy is based on concealing anything from customers, it won’t work,” Wolf said. “You have to disseminate more information, not less.”

Being involved in customer reviews and participation is crucial, too, Wolf said, adding that in the past two years, half of the 10 most-viewed Web sites have content that’s entirely generated by users.

More sites such as MySpace and others are coming, Wolf said. It’s up to people in marketing to have an open mind when new sites come along.

“Don’t be a cynic,” he said. “Look at what they’re trying to accomplish.”

People marketing destinations also need to recognize the growth of niche marketing in the travel business, known to some as the “long-tail” economy.

“Doing lots of little things well wins,” Wolf said. The old truism, that 80 percent of a destination’s income comes from 20 percent of its guests, doesn’t work anymore, he said.

“The cost of doing little things has gone down dramatically,” he said.

These and other strategies are available, and marketing departments need to be aware of and ready to use them.

Wolf cautioned business owners not to restrict themselves to just the things they already know how to do, which he called “skills-based decision making.” That’s particularly true in Web marketing, which is always on and always changing.

“You need to rededicate your business to serving customers,” he said. “And you can’t just say that’s what you do.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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